If you currently use the CSA to receive child maintenance your case will be closed between now and 2018. CSA cases are not automatically transferred to the CMS, so when your case is closed you will need to apply to the CMS to receive payments through the new system.
Parents are notified that their case is being closed by two letters. One is sent six months before your CSA case is due to close, and you will receive another letter reminding you one month before your case closes. The best time to act is when you receive your first letter.
You may already have received a letter, or you might not hear anything for a year or longer. This is because the CSA is closing cases in stages until 2018. Check the information below to see when your case is likely to close, and what you can do when you receive your case closure letter.
Delays in maintenance payments after you transfer your case to the CMS
There may be a gap between your child maintenance payments, which could be up to six weeks or longer. This could happen even if you have acted quickly and requested that your case is transferred to the CMS as soon as you received your CSA case closure letter. This is because the CMS will only recalculate and start administering your child maintenance once your CSA case has closed, which could take up to six weeks.
The Child Maintenance Service - what's the difference?
There is a £20 application fee to use the service. You don't have to pay the application fee if you have experienced domestic violence or you're under 18.
What do I get for my £20?
· The Child Maintenance Service checks the income of your child's other parent with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
· You get a maintenance calculation and a schedule for payments
· You're given information on how to arrange the payments directly between yourselves
· You can access your child maintenance account online to track the payments
· You will have an annual review - the Child Maintenance Service will check the income of your child's other parent with HMRC every year to make sure you're still getting the right amount
· A collections service is available if you're not receiving your payments - but there is a charge for this.
When do you have to pay collection charges?
There are charges if the Child Maintenance Service has to step in to collect money from your child’s other parent and pay it to you. The paying parent has to pay an additional 20 per cent on top of the usual child maintenance amount, and your child maintenance amount is reduced by four per cent. If your child’s other parent pays the money directly to you, neither of you have to pay charges.
What about my arrears?
If arrears have built up whilst your case was with the CSA, and you choose to use the Child Maintenance Service, the arrears will still stand and can be enforced. This is also the case if you decide to come to a family-based arrangement or your child is now an adult – you're still owed the arrears.
The government has promised that Child Maintenance Service will be better at collecting arrears than the CSA. If you have outstanding arrears you might stand a better chance of getting them if you have a case open with the Child Maintenance Service.